1997 – John Spong

In 1997 the Geering Lectures were inaugurated with a series of four lectures given by Bishop John Shelby Spong. They can be purchased.

The series was entitled Being a Christian at the Turn of the 21st Century and consisted of four lectures:

  • The Crisis of Faith – Why The Old Story No Longer Translates
  • Rerooting Christianity in its Jewishness
  • Opening The Christian Symbols of the Past to the Possibilities of the Future
  • Speaking of Christ in the 21st Century – How Can We Sing The Lord’s Song In A Strange Land



During the four weeks spent in New Zealand by Bishop Spong and his wife Christine, he fulfilled over seventy engagements throughout the country and on the media, and delivered more than twenty lectures. He had accepted the invitation of the St. Andrew’s Trust for the study of Religion and Society to be the first to hold the Geering Lectureship which has been established by the trust.

The four lunch hour lectures he delivered in St. Andrew’s drew such large crowds that arrangements had to be made for an overflow of about 100 in the church hall.

His visit was accompanied by a degree of public criticism. This was due, partly to the way in which he gave such strong moral support to the gay and lesbian community, and partly to the stimulating and provocative way in which he expounded the Christian Way as we prepare to enter the twenty-first century.

Some of the criticism, regrettably, is due to the fact that much popular thought within the churches belongs to a world which is fast passing away, thus leaving church life quite out of touch with the contemporary state and needs of society. To those who are wedded to the past tradition, Bishop Spong appeared as a threat who had to be countered. Even his own (Anglican) communion remained aloof from him.

However, Bishop Spong was listened to enthusiastically by those (of any denomination or of none) who are concerned about the moral and spiritual values in the society of today and the future. To them he brought encouraging new insight about the origin and nature of the Christian way of life. Some of his lectures (part of a book to be published the following year) were intended to show how Christianity must change or die.

What Bishop Spong had to say was equally relevant to all who value the Christian heritage but we in St. Andrew’s, by virtue of our place in the city of Wellington, are particularly well placed to respond to what he said and to attempt live it out in our congregational life.